Posterior spinal fusion recovery

Patients recovering from spinal fusion surgery can often expect a few months of limited physical activity as the body heals. This is especially true for patients who undergo traditional open back fusion because the muscles require extended time to heal and rebuild after being cut and detached from the body during the procedure.

Before you have spinal fusion surgery, you should meet with your surgeon to discuss postoperative guidelines and what to expect following the procedure. For some spinal fusion recoveries, patients are not able to drive for a week or more after the procedure. Make sure you consult your surgeon about daily activities and work so you can schedule your postoperative time accordingly.

Restrictions following spinal fusion for degenerative disc disease

The spinal fusion recovery process requires a great deal of patience and discipline on the part of the patient, whether the procedure was performed as a minimally invasive procedure, like transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF), or as an open back surgery. In general, patients who undergo TLIF can expect to be fairly limited early on in the recovery process, with a gradual increase in physical activity, as tolerated and approved by physicians and/or physical therapists. The basic limitations for returning to work are:

  • Days 1 – 14 — No work allowed.
  • Weeks 2 – 6 — Two to four hours of light, intermittent administrative work per day, as tolerated.
  • Weeks 6 – 12 — Four to six hours of light physical labor or administrative work, up to eight as tolerated.

While these are general guidelines for returning to work, only your physician or physical therapist can accurately determine if you are able to return to work.

Monitoring symptoms during the spinal fusion recovery process

Throughout the first three months following TLIF, lifting of any kind should be restricted, based on the instructions of the physician and physical therapist. While a certain amount of pain and tightness around the surgery area is expected, any major change for the worse in symptoms should be reported to a physician as soon as possible. For more information about TLIF for degenerative disc disease, contact Laser Spine Institute today.